March 14, 2011

Coconut buns and the economics of home awesomeness

March 14, 2011 - Categories: cooking, family, life, love, reflection

Sometimes making things at home is cheaper than buying them. Sometimes it’s more expensive. For example, the batch lunches we prepare and freeze come out to $1-$3 per meal, labour included. They’re definitely worth it compared to eating out. The coconut cocktail buns (pan de coco?) I spent this weekend learning are cheaper at the store, but they were still very much worth making.

We followed a recipe from an book that W- had bought from a pastry store in Chinatown a long time ago. It was a different way of making dough. The first step was to mix yeast, warm water, and flour. I was a little nervous in the beginning because it was more of a slurry than a paste. Once it rose and I combined it with the rest of the flour, it was beautifully dough-like, made smooth and elastic through kneading. After several rounds of rising, I filled it with the coconut mix, wrapped the dough around it, let it rest some more, then popped it into the oven for 15 minutes. The result:

Coconut cocktail buns

The buns were scrumptious. Not too sweet. Complex taste. Yummy yummy yummy.

I had a lot of fun making the buns with W-, playing around with the voice and mannerisms we’d picked up from a Julia Child video. I also made some pie crusts for Pi Day (March 14). W- filled the first pie crust with lemon meringue. I sewed up some tea towels from the fabric that W- helped me pick out, and those passed their field test. We salvaged some wool scraps from one of my bins and repurposed an empty paper salt shaker into a dice roller for J-‘s math study sessions. It was a great weekend for maing things.

We spend a lot of weekend time doing things ourselves: cooking, baking, sewing, fixing things, even woodworking during the summer months. Some of things cost us more in terms of time and money than we might spend on functionally equivalent alternatives, but we get a surprising amount of value from these activities. For example, baking coconut buns results in yummy coconut buns (for which a reasonable equivalent can be bought for a little more than a dollar each), but the activity is also:

So although baking buns takes time, it actually pays off better than many of the other ways I could spend weekend time, such as:

There’s a reasonable limit to how much time I would spend on baking or making other things at home. I don’t want to mill my own flour (just yet). I think I’ve got a decent balance right now, and I look forward to picking up more as I get better and more efficient.

Am I trading off, say, more brilliance at work, or racking up income through side-hustles, or becoming more famous through writing? Maybe. But this is good, and all of those other aspects of life are pretty okay (even awesome!). Life is good.

Continuing experiments with Slideshare’s Zipcast web conferences

March 14, 2011 - Categories: speaking

I did a quick presentation of Six Steps to Sharing on Slideshare’s Zipcast this Saturday.

I haven’t done enough audience/list development to invite lots of people to sign up, as most of my internal and external talks are organized and promoted by other people. As an experiment, I decided to think of this more like informal office hours and the bonus of being able to review and think about some of the presentations I’ve shared. That worked out well.

I’ve been using this to test video setups around the house, too. This time, I tried the kitchen, sitting on the floor near the back door. I got good light, a clean background, and the right height for the webcam – things that are more difficult to arrange when my laptop’s on the table. However, sitting on the floor made breathing slightly more difficult, and it changed the way I spoke. Downstairs is still my favourite setup, but it requires a bit of work – foldable background, three lights. The kitchen is the easiest to get up and running.

I couldn’t get my hair to stay still, so I wore a hat. They’re handy for that. =)

If I want to get better at this, here are the key areas for growth:

Is it worth investing time into this? Considerations:

I think I’m going to keep tinkering around with this, but I might not spend the time right now to make the most of Zipcasts or other webconferencing tools. It’s good learning, though, and I’ll be around every Saturday in case people have questions or ideas.